Brewing up a sustainable success story.

In this Clean Growth for Business interview, Sadie Lofthouse, Director of Culture and Performance at Suffolk brewery Adnams, talks about how the iconic Suffolk firm has embedded sustainability in its day-to-day culture, highlights some of its energy-saving initiatives, and gives some tips for other businesses.

Tell us about what Adnams has done to become more sustainable

“Our distribution centre is 15 years old now and I think we can get blasé about the sustainable credentials of that building, but it’s phenomenal. We’re not putting any rainwater through the drainage system because it’s going through reedbeds, and we are reusing it to flush toilets and lorries. We were paying a lot of money to keep our beer cold in the summer and at an ambient temperature during the winter. So, commercially it makes sense because we’re not paying huge gas and electricity bills. Often when you are looking at this, you can do the right thing from a sustainability perspective, and also do the right thing from a commercial point of view. It might cost more with the initial layout but it doesn’t cost more moving forward.   

“Covid has given us an opportunity to consider how we use the building. Five or six years ago we put all LED lights in the warehouse because when it was built the cost of doing that was too much. In the office the lights had always been on sensors, which worked well when everyone was in the office at the same time and it was full. Now there are sometimes only a few people in, and some people are going early and some are leaving late, with more and more people working at home. Now is the time to turn those lights on to switches, so you don’t have them all on when the sun is shining or when there are only two people in the office. Compared to the initial investment in the building, it’s tiny, but it’s about that commitment to keep looking and seeing what more we can do.   

“It’s the same with the brewery. In terms of water, installing that kit in 2007 means our water ratio per pint of beer was the lowest in the UK and possibly in Europe. Luckily, others have no done similar so the average is much lower, but we can still look at the brewery and see where we can tinker around the edges just to get that little bit more.  At our Reydon distribution centre, we have created a recycling station for the stuff you can’t put in your bin at home – batteries, blister packs, crisp packets. This is to encourage employees not just to recycle them when they’re in work, but also if you are at home and you change the batteries on your remote control, you can bring them to work, and we will recycle them for you. It’s a really small thing, but it’s a way of involving people and that constant messaging that this stuff does matter to us. 

How is Adnams reducing its use of packaging? 

“Where we can make a difference is getting rid of shrink-wrap and plastic everywhere we can. We are also looking at how we can reuse and repurpose cardboard because we use quite a lot of new cardboard. So, we have a couple of projects looking at how we can have a service where we send cardboard back or it is collected. But the most exciting thing is that on the back of Covid our web business went from a very small business where deliveries were via a courier from the distribution centre to a really big web business. We quite quickly realised that a lot of our deliveries were actually within about 15 miles of one of our stores, so now we can make ‘naked’ deliveries in that we can send an electric van from the shop to the customer; a bit like your milkman would deliver your bottles of milk without any cardboard. So, you can now order your wine or beer online, one of our team from the shop can bring it out hopefully on a journey home or a journey in, chat to you about our drinks and our stores and promote the business, and not leave you with any cardboard.”    

What benefits are there to businesses who become more sustainable?

“We are now 100 per cent green energy and when we moved to green energy it cost more. But you have to look at what that commitment does for the sustainable credentials of our brand. What does that do in terms of consumers who have a conscience and want to buy from a brand where there is that simple commitment? Equally, what does that do in terms of attracting talent into the business and that employer brand? It’s quite hard to measure these things, but you know when you’re recruiting people and you’re interviewing and people tell you, ‘We love what you do around sustainability,’ and they pick up on the stories. Maybe they’ve come and knocked on our door rather than someone else’s. So, the benefits are myriad really.”  

Hear more from Sadie Lofthouse in this podcast

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Centre of Technology